Profaizer on Point: Steve Jobs, a Modern Day Edison
Editor’s Note: Linda Profaizer, a Colorado resident and immediate past-president of ARVC, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Having stepped away from her association duties at the end of 2010, she welcomes input on topics of importance to campground owners for upcoming columns.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the commencement address that Steve Jobs delivered in 2005 at Stanford University, it is definitely worth the read (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html). He tells three stories that affected his life: connecting the dots, love and loss, and death. He had some very profound statements about death saying it is “very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
While that may be kind of morbid, it is a good lesson to reflect on. Alicia Kelso, editor of QRSweb, pointed out some additional life lessons of Steve Jobs that she applied to the restaurant industry. I thought I would take a few of those life lessons and apply them to the RV park/campground industry.
1. The customer experience trumps everything else. Steve Jobs focused on details that made Apple products easy to use. If there were any product-experience barriers, Jobs had trained employees to answer questions and trouble shoot devices. Have you made it easy for your guests to “experience” your park? Is your website easy to use and does it present all the information a person would need to make a decision to stay at your park? Once a camper comes to your park, is your registration process streamlined and quick? Do you take your guest to their site? Is the guest’s site maintained like they were the first camper on the site? Do you listen to your guests and make changes based on their constructive comments? If there is something that is preventing your campers from having a positive experience at your park, do you know what it is and are you willing to change it?
2. Don’t overlook the small things. Steve Jobs took a calligraphy course before he dropped out of college. He credits the class as part of the inspiration behind the creation of Macintosh. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” he said. That’s attention to detail. Don’t overlook the small things – is your website free of typos, is your park signage easily understood, is your registration area uncluttered, are the fire pits clean, etc. All of these things (big or small) can affect your customer’s intent to return to your park.
3. Anticipate trends. One of Steve Jobs’ favorite quotes was something Wayne Gretzky, the hockey player said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Jobs always tried to do that at Apple – every device was created by anticipating future trends, even at the risk of the demise of another signature product. The iPhone was invented with a potential demise of the iPod because market demand was moving toward mobile, for example. Did you anticipate the on-site accommodation trend? Have you embraced the pet trend and added pet areas? Have you embraced technology? I think that Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Md., was one of the first parks to anticipate a possible trend of plug-ins for electric cars. What trends do you see coming down the pike?
4. No man or woman is an island. Steve Jobs didn’t conceive or grow Apple on his own; he surrounded himself with the right people. Never underestimate the power of teamwork and hiring the expertise to get a job done well the first time. No one is an expert at everything! You will offer a better product to the camping public if you, at times, consider the ideas of others as relates to your park and hire people with a particular expertise to get a project done.
5. Do what you like; like what you do. One of the stories Jobs told in the Stanford commencement address related to love and loss. His story related to creating Apple, the love of his life, losing it and then regaining it. He said, “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. (After getting fired)… I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
I’m a fan of the “Life Is Good” line of T-shirts and other products. It’s kind of like waking up on the wrong side of the bed instead of the right side or looking at the half empty glass instead of the half full glass. Why say, “Life is Bad?” The company’s motto is “Do What You Like, Like What You Do!” That’s an important phrase to contemplate.
This seems like a good time to take stock of the past year – your business and yourself. In one of the ARVC press releases regarding the November Outdoor Hospitality Conference, a park owner from New York, who has had a particularly hard year, was going to the conference hopefully to get her enthusiasm and passion for the park business re-instilled. The conference would be a good place to do it, talking with other park owners and realizing that you are not the only person who has had some setbacks.
Do a little self-evaluation. Are you happy with the way the year went? Are you relieved that the year is over (for those of you with a seasonal business)? Are you full of ideas for the upcoming year? Do you feel that you remained pretty even-keeled throughout the year? Did you treat all your guests equally and with enthusiasm? Do you still enjoy the business?
It’s normal at the end of a year to feel tired and maybe more than a little anxious to try to take a break from work for a while. But if your answer to the last question upon reflection, is “no,” I really don’t enjoy the business anymore, then it may be time to consider selling your park or turning over some aspects of the business to a family member or manager.
So, take a little time to reflect on the year and yourself. Most of the time the answer to the question “Do you like what you do?” will be a “yes.” You just need to take some time to regroup and refuel for the next season.
HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND POSITIVE NEW YEAR!